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Federal Agents Crackdown on Identity Theft Across U.S.

Federal authorities charged a Colorado Springs man with identity theft for stealing the identities of customers of a defunct business and using their information to file fraudulent tax returns. The man’s arrest was part of a larger federal crackdown on identity theft and fraud.

Nationwide Sweep

At the end of January 2012, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it partnered with the Justice Department’s Tax Division, the Postal Service and local U.S. attorney’s offices to investigate suspected identity theft and fraudulent tax returns nationwide. Authorities investigated suspects for months and in some cases years. The agencies’ efforts resulted in 80 complaints and indictments and the arrest of 54 suspects.

The IRS said that the timing of the sweep was not a coincidence. Authorities wanted the sweep to overlap with the onset of tax season because many of the alleged offenses involved using stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent income tax returns. The IRS sees this fraud as a growing problem. In 2010, the IRS found 260,000 income tax returns with attempted identity fraud and prevented $1.4 billion in fraudulent payments.

As part of the push to investigate identity fraud, federal officials examined 150 businesses providing money services and audited 250 check-cashing businesses to see if they were involved in any identity theft activities.

Colorado Identity Theft Law

The suspects arrested in the sweep will face federal charges for their alleged offenses. However, Colorado law also inflicts stiff penalties for identity theft. It is a class four felony in Colorado to possess or use the identifying information of another without that person’s permission to obtain anything of value.

A person faces two to six years in prison if convicted of identity theft, as well as a fine of $2000 to $500,000. However, if a person has a prior identity theft conviction, the court may sentence the defendant to twice the presumptive sentence range – meaning a person could potentially get a 12-year prison sentence for an identity theft conviction.

Contact an Attorney

Identity theft charges are serious matters. Both state and federal authorities take such crimes very seriously and will not hesitate to prosecute to the fullest extent possible. If you are facing identity theft charges, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.